Is a blogger a journalist free to write what they choose? Can some one writing about their own community – the epitome of citizen journalism – write freely without subjecting themselves to resident’s scorn?
Judging by the experience of Daniel Cavanagh who seems to have generated the ire of his Brooklyn New York enclave of Gerritsen Park, the answer is sadly, no. Cavanagh’s copy about local handshake deals and rowdy neighborhood youths has resulted in physical threats, property damage and intimidation. So much for the new era of civility and tolerance, so much for freedom of speech.
The New York Times piece Not Quite a Reporter, but Raking Muck and Reaping Wrath raises serious questions about hyperlocal journalists facing retribution, criticism, scorn and the ire of their friends and neighbors. It posits the question if some one cannot write critically, even if they transgress and write about some thing, one or relationship where they are personally engaged, is that in any way protected?
Hyperlocal is the commercial buzzword these days. There are large companies like AOL and its Patch sites, as well as scores of TV stations and newspapers creating local, multimedia coverage, soliciting local columns and information, posting truly granular data about a specific town or neighborhood. Is there no room for criticism? Is there no room for muckraking? Have we all gone so soft and superficial that we only care about supermarket coupons and yard sales?